Sometime Saturday overnight or on Sunday, just days ahead of the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism, unidentified individuals vandalised multiple Holocaust memorials at Kalevi-Liiva, Harju County, the execution site of thousands of victims of Nazism.
The memorials were tagged with a swastika, penises and antisemitic and Nazi messages as well as burned, likely using a blowtorch.
The vandalism was discovered by local residents, who notified the police, the municipal government and Estonia's Jewish community about it.
Jewish Community of Estonia chairwoman Alla Jakobson said that she was shaken and outraged by the news.
"I can't call these Nazi-sympathisers who attack the memory of innocent victims with such brutality and anger human," she said. "The memory of the dead has always been regarded with such great respect and honour in Estonia, regardless of ethnicity. An Estonian resident cannot act like this, which is why I am sure that the memorial was vandalised by people who hate Estonia, and this should also be seen as a provocation timed to coincide with the Day of Restoration of Independence of the Republic of Estonia."
Jakobson also thanked those who alerted the authorities and the Jewish community to the incident.
Police seeking help to catch vandals
Police are asking the residents of Jõelähtme for help in tracking down the vandals.
"This is a very unfortunate case," said Urmas Krull, operations manager of the North Prefecture of the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA). "Memorials erected in memory of victims killed during the war deserve respect. We will do everything we can to identify the culprits, because there is no justification for such behaviour."
Krull requested that anyone with information about the possible vandals is asked to call the emergency line at 112.
A criminal investigation was launched into the incident under § 149, Clause 1 of the Penal Code, according to which the desecration of a grave or other place designated as a last resting place or memorial erected for the commemoration of a deceased person is punishable by a pecuniary punishment or up to one year in prison.
This is not the first time that the memorials at Kalevi-Liiva have been vandalised.
Jewish memorial erected in 1960, Roma memorial in 2007
Kalevi-Liiva is the final resting place of an estimated up to 6,000 people murdered by the Nazis, and memorials were erected at the site for both Jewish and Roma victims of the Holocaust. In 1942, it was used as the execution site for the Nazi-established Jägala concentration camp.
"This is the place where Jews were brought from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Germany to be executed," Jakobson said.
An estimated 2,000 of those executed at Kalevi-Liiva were Roma. The memorial erected at the site in 2007 is also the first Roma memorial in Estonia, and it took six years for the North-Estonian Roma Association to receive the necessary permission to do so.
Jewish memorials have previously been the target of vandalism in Estonia as well.
"There have been cases, but I can't say that this is a regular thing, or that we feel concerned by it," Jakobson said. "I think that [such behaviour] isn't inherent to Estonia."
Editor: Aili Vahtla